DIVE INTO DOWNTOWN: HIDDEN GEMS IN ABU DHABI
Located in the hustle and bustle of downtown Abu Dhabi, you can find Vansha Ghar opposite the Hamed Center. Recognisable by its neon green and pink lights, get ready for some really great food! Parking can be found across the street - then brave the underground pedestrian crossings of Abu Dhabi to reach your destination.
The steamed chicken momos (AED18) are our favourite! Steaming, soft and juicy, they are stuffed with flavourful chicken. For the price, they are a steal. The veg vansha combo (AED30) is one of their most popular dishes. It includes rice, daal, saag (a yummy, leafy vegetable dish), potatoes and many little Nepali sides. We recommend the combo meals as an entry point, so you can taste a wider range of what’s on offer before venturing further into the menu.
Ambience is not amazing, as it is a hole in the wall, but to be expected. Oh, and they don't accept card payments, so make sure you bring cash!
Price: under AED80 for a meal for two with drinks
Open: Daily | 6am - 11.45pm
Contact: 02 644 0788
Located in the old cinema building downtown, Qian Zhou HotPot really does feel like a hidden gem… once you find it! A buffet style restaurant, it is spacious and clean with traditional decor. For an authentic hotpot experience, this one is a must-try!
We opt for the individual hotpot (AED49 + tax) - there's a wide range of hotpot ingredients and elements to make your DIY sauce. They have all your typical hotpot meat cuts (mutton, beef, chicken) and seafood including crab balls, crab sticks and fish - everything halal.
The price also includes daily dishes on the buffet counter like fried rice, noodles, tofu, bbq beef, as well as sweets like sesame and custard breads. They also offer slices of orange and watermelon, a point of difference from some other hotpot restaurants and a nice refresher alongside a hot meal.
There is an option to go for hotpot + BBQ as well (AED69). Qian Zhou has a no waste rule (there’s even an additional charge for any food waste) and is cash only.
Price: AED49 for hotpot, AED69 for hotpot + BBQ, plus tax
Open: Daily | 11.30am - 11.30pm
Contact: 02 674 7677
In a city overflowing with strong Lebanese options, this month Zehrat Lebnan is on our radar, a presence in the local market for over 30 years.
Guided by the friendly staff - it’s an indecisive day for us - we opt for a range of dishes. First up, the falafel plate (AED20) - not bad, but we have enjoyed better falafel. The mixed grill (AED69) is a strong choice, featuring meat skewers, shish taouk, kebab chicken, lamb chops and arayes kofta with accompaniments. The fattouch salad is gorgeous, very fresh and our pick of the day (AED24), while their shawarma platter (AED52) is rather run of the mill.
To finish off, out comes halawet el jibn, a Syrian dessert made of semolina and cheese dough, stuffed with cream and topped with pistachio and sugar syrup (AED25). Love it or hate it, this one will divide the crowd - but it comes highly recommended by the staff. It’s very sweet, and the rose flavoured syrup can be overpowering for some but if you love it, you love it.
The portions are massive, but it’s a bit pricier compared to other Lebanese restaurants. The food is of high quality and service is excellent! Wait staff are happy to make recommendations, and very friendly too.
Price: AED200 to easily feed 4
Open: Daily | 8am - 2am
Contact: 600 500502
Over the years, Nihal has proven itself to be consistently pocket-friendly and maintained high standards of deliciousness, both for dining in and delivery. It’s definitely an Indian restaurant we find ourselves returning to regularly.
We recommend you start with the onion bhaji (AED19), onion smothered in a simple, fragrant spiced batter and fried to crispy perfection, and their chicken pahadi tikka (AED38) - chicken marinated in mint sauce and chargrilled.
For mains, we rate the butter chicken (AED 38), which has the right balance of sweet and tangy and has a lovely velvety texture. The mutton biryani (AED38) also doesn’t disappoint: the meat is tender, and the rice has just the right mix of spices, with cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves coming through.
The staff are friendly and always polite, and very happy to offer recommendations if needed!
Price: A meal for 2 for under AED100
Open: Daily | 11 AM - 12 AM
Contact: 02 631 8008
Chaat lovers, this one's for you! This Indian street food paradise is really delightful, a colourful spot located near Madinat Zayed that’s perfect for a mid-week outing or a fun weekend meal with friends.
We recommend diving in with a selection of dishes, including pani puri, dahi puri, samosas, jalebis and faloodas (nothing over AED12). Everything is tasty, the food comes out quickly and the staff really contribute to a fun atmosphere.
It’s a great little locale if you enjoy good and reasonably priced chaat. This one is very pocket-friendly and for AED49 easily feeds 2 people. ‘Chaska’ means ‘obsession’, and we’d argue that the name isn’t wrong - but you be the judge after a visit!
Price: a meal for two for under AED 50!
Open: Monday - Thursday | 6am - midnight; Friday - Sunday | 6am - 1am
Contact: 02 650 0101